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China ups donations to HIV/AIDS

Writing in FP earlier this summer, former U.S. ambassador on global HIV/AIDS, Jack Chow, offered a glimpse into China's policy on the epidemic: When it comes to aid money, give a bit, recieve lots and lots. At the time of writing the piece, China's contribution to the global pool of donor money to fight HIV/AIDS, the Global Fund, was $2 million over eight years. Meanwhile, the country won an $1 billion in grants. For a country with $2.5 trillion in foreign currency reserves, this seemed a bit out of whack.

Perhaps they got the message. Because at the replenishment conference that took place earlier this week -- a gathering in which countries, foundations, and other donors pledge their committments for the coming three years -- China upped the ante. From $2 million annually, China's contribution rose to approximately $4.6 million, or $14 million over the next three years. That's still not terribly impressive (especially considering that Nigeria offered a not-dissimilar $10 million for the fund.)  

Still, the pressure was clearly on. Prior to the conference, six U.S. senators urged China to give its fair share. The Global Fund itself has also been pushing in this regard, urging the rising powers to slowly transition from recipient to donor. "China, Brazil and India should remain net beneficiaries the Global Fund," Kazatchkine told AFP. "[A]t the same time, they have to be contributors." That was one of President Barack Obama's administration's big goals in the replenishment as well: to get other donors to take up a fair share of the burden, particularly amid difficult financial times.

There were a few other interesting funding committments that stand out from the conference as well. The United States offered $4 billion over three years -- an increase from past funding but still not enough to please activists. Perhaps more interesting, however was the massive $300 million committment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. That number dwarfs almost all country donors -- including countries known for giving a relatively high proportion of their GDPs to aid, Norway, Denmark and Australia. What a new world it is where the richest foundation in the United States can outspend the world's most generous national donors.

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

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Philippines may ban off-key national anthem singing

The Philippine Congress voted unanimously yesterday in favor of a law that forbids deviating from the tune of the country's national anthem or displaying the flag in an unpatriotic manner:

The proposal has been put forward as the MPs felt that Filipino artists had been changing the anthem's military march melody and beat, and the flag was being made into clothing articles. The change in the anthem's tune was noted when it was sung at the boxing matches of Manny Pacquiao, the seven-time Filipino world champion.

If this new law is passed, Filipino singers deviating from the anthem tune could be handed a jail sentence as well as a $2,000 fine.

As a newly elected congressman, Pacquiao presumably voted for the measure himself. 

Here's what a traditional rendition of the Philippine national anthem sounds like if you're curious. Not a bad one, though I'm sure Marvin Gaye could have taken it to another level.